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Dr Harsh Vardhan inaugurates NAT Testing Facility at the Red Cross Society Headquarters

Dr. Harsh Vardhan, Union Minister for Health and Family Welfare and Chairman of the Indian Red Cross Society, National Headquarters inaugurated a Nucleic Acid Testing (NAT) Testing Facility at the IRCS NHQ Blood Centre. He also inaugurated three fully equipped vehicles, including two blood collection vans which would be used to hold blood camps and add blood units to the Red Cross Blood Centre.

Dr. Harsh Vardhan congratulated Red Cross on the fact that the 80 Indian Red Cross Blood Centres in the country had played a remarkable role in holding blood camps and collecting blood during the peak of COVID pandemic. Red Cross Blood Centres had remained operational and held camps in residential colonies and also provided transport to the donors to come and donate in the Red Cross Blood Centre.

The Minister pointed out that by introducing NAT tests instead of the conventional ELISA test, both the window period to detect infections and the residual risk of transfusion transmitted infections of HIV, Hepatitis B, and Hepatitis C would be considerably reduced. The blood donation vehicles similarly would enhance Voluntary Blood Donation by reaching out to voluntary non-remunerated regular donation who are found to be safer than replacement donors.

Expressing his deep appreciation for these facilities, he welcomed the thought behind installing the State-of-the-Art Advanced Haemogenomics facility. “Commitment to Holistic Health Care is exemplified by 137% increase in budgetary allocations this year. We have started 22 new AIIMS, 127 new colleges which has increased the MBBS seats to around 80,000 from 50,000 (in 2014). PG seats have increased to more than 24,000.” He also detailed the achievements of Ayushman Bharat and National Health Mission in extending health care to every segment of the society. He reminded his audience that Nationalised PSUs have financed the ‘Thalassemia Bal Sewa Yojana’ for corrective surgery of innate haemo-genomic conditions.

Describing how transfusion of blood is an essential part of modern health care management, he stated, “In developed countries, 50 persons per 1000 people donate blood in a year.   In our country, 8-10 persons donate blood per 1000 people in a year.  India with a massive population of 1.38 billion requires just around 14 million units of blood annually. Ideally if 1% of the total eligible population donates blood every year there would be no shortage of blood.”

Reminding everyone that the goal of securing 100% voluntary, non-remunerated blood donors for a regular and safe supply of blood has not yet been achieved, he said, “Countries that have efficient voluntary blood donor organizations are able to sustain a constant inflow of donors. Blood transfusion is a unique technology in that its collection, processing and use are scientifically based, but its availability depends on the extraordinary generosity of people who donate blood regularly as the most precious of gifts – the gift of life”.

He also observed that many people visit various shrines on important occasions and remarked that Blood Donation accrues the same Punya as undertaking these Tirthas. “As an additional benefit, regular blood donation also decreases the risk of many obesity related diseases,” he added. He also underscored the importance of pre-marital screening for Thalassemia in the offspring and said the matching of Rakt-kundli is more important than that of Janm-kundli. The Union Health Minister has also highlighted this issue during his reply to questions during the Question Hour in Lok Sabha yesterday.

On reducing the gap between demand and availability of safe blood, he observed the need to create awareness amongst the general public to donate blood voluntarily: “The educational programme, should be so designed that the community understands the advantage of regular blood donation. The groups targeted for motivation would be educational institutions, Industrial Houses, socio-cultural organizations, religious groups, and government organizations. Mass media should be engaged for motivating the people and sensitizing them towards their participation in the most effective way to mobilize voluntary blood donation.”

Mr. R. K. Jain, Secretary General, Indian Red Cross Society, Shri Deepak Chopra, President, Thalassemics India and other senior office bearers of both the organizations were present at the event.